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Fifth Disease & Pregnancy- Learn Its Causes and How It Can Be Avoided

It is the desire of every pregnant woman to give their baby the best possible health. However, there are instances where the health of the baby is getting out the mother’s control. When pregnant women are exposed to certain diseases, it can cause potential harm not just to the mother but to the baby’s health as well.

1. Fifth Disease and Its Nature

Fifth disease is an illness characterized by red rashes in pre­school age children. Also called as “slapped cheeks disease”, Fifth disease can also be found in adults. The condition is actually caused by the Parvovirus B19 which plays a vital role in inhibiting the production of red blood cells in the body.

Though Fifth disease is a less concern in children and pregnant women, some people are put at a greater risk when exposed to this condition. To some people, a temporary halt in the production of red blood cells in the body does not impose a greater concern. However, for people with chronic anaemia or iron deficiency, it can impose substantial health risks. In some cases, Fifth disease can create damage to unborn children.

Should there be an outbreak of this disease in the workplace, pregnant women can still continue working and mingle with co­workers, provided that they are immune with parvovirus B19. However, if they are not immune, it would be best to stay away from the infected people to secure the health of their baby.

According to research, 1 in every 10 adults has suffered from Fifth disease on their childhood. Anyone can be diagnosed with Fifth disease but children less than 15 years of age are very susceptible to this condition. Researchers concluded that people who have been diagnosed with Fifth disease become immune with the illness, thus they cannot be infected again.

Meanwhile, 1 in every 400 women gets contracted with the virus during their pregnancy. There is no evidence that the transmission of parvovirus to the baby during pregnancy can cause mental disorders such as mental retardation. Though it mostly appears on the early stages of pregnancy, Fifth disease only occurs in less than 5% of pregnant women who had been exposed to this condition.

Until today, there is no available treatment for fifth disease. The condition simply goes away on its own.

2. Mode of Transmission

Fifth disease is commonly transmitted through nasal secretions and saliva. Anyone can be infected by this condition just by being in near proximity with the infected person who sneezes or coughs. It can also be transmitted through kissing, hand­to­mouth contact and sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils.

On the other hand, parvovirus 19 can be transmitted through the blood. This simply means that pregnant women who have been infected by this condition can transmit the condition to her baby through the placenta.

If you have contracted the virus during pregnancy, there’s a 33% probability that the virus will passed through the placenta. Most of the babies born to mothers diagnosed with Fifth disease are born normal.

Around 11% of pregnant women who have been infected by the virus before the 20th week of their pregnancy will most likely lose their baby. In some cases, the transmission of parvovirus through the placenta results to the baby’s loss. When infected by the virus, there is a little possibility that the pregnancy will lead to stillbirth, miscarriage, inflammation of the heart muscles and severe foetal anaemia which may possibly lead to a condition known as hydrops fetalis.

Fifth disease parovirus B19

3. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fifth Disease?

According to research, the signs and symptoms of this condition vary from one person to another. However, around 20­25% of those diagnosed with this condition do not suffer from any symptom at all. Should there be symptoms, most patients suffer from achiness, fatigue, low­grade fever, headache, sore throat and runny nose on the first weeks.

On the subsequent week, children who had been diagnosed with this disease can notice distinctive red rashes on their face. Rash (sometimes itchy) may also extend through the limbs and torso. Some children may suffer from joint pain (ankles, joints and knees), though this rarely happens.

Fifth disease usually lasts for a week or two but it can recur intermittently for the next couple months, most especially when exposed to extreme cold or heat, sunlight and excessive exercise.

Thought adults don’t get rashes when infected, they are very likely to suffer from flu­like symptoms. Also, swelling of the joints may occur which may create pain. The symptoms for both adults and children usually last for 4­21 days after the infection.

4. What To Do To Avoid The Infection

Pregnant women should always try to reduce their risk of getting infections like the Fifth disease. To help prevent the occurrence of Fifth disease, the following must be observed:

  • Avoid mingling with people who had been diagnosed with infectious diseases
  • As much as possible, don’t share your food, drinking glasses and eating utensils.
  • Always wash your hands, most especially after touching or wiping the nose of children who have viral
  • Throw away used tissues.

5. What To Do When Infected?

If you are pregnant and you believe that you have been infected by this condition, you should immediately consult your doctor about it. The doctor needs to check your blood if you have been affected by the parvovirus. Once confirmed, you need to undergo an ultrasound on the next 8­ to 12 weeks to check the condition of your placenta, amniotic fluid and presence of excess fluid in your body.

A Doppler sonography may be administered to test your baby for anaemia. If the tests revealed some signs of foetal hydrops or anaemia, your doctor may recommend the procedure percutaneous umbilical blood sampling, a procedure used to determine if your baby has anaemia. Once confirmed, foetal transfusion may be necessary. It is a procedure which involves the transfusion of blood into the baby’s umbilical cord. Though this procedure imposes some risks, it can help in enhancing the survival rate of the foetus that had been severely affected by anaemia.


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All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.


This website was formerly Merrion Fetal Health. The clinic has undergone a rebrand and is now known as Merrion Ultrasound.